Monster's Ball

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For the professional wrestling match type, see Monster's Ball match.
Not to be confused with Poké Ball, which is called "Monster Ball" in Japanese versions of Pokémon.
Monster's Ball
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Marc Forster
Produced by Lee Daniels
Written by Milo Addica
Will Rokos
Starring Billy Bob Thornton
Heath Ledger
Halle Berry
Sean Combs
Mos Def
Will Rokos
Milo Addica
Peter Boyle
Music by Asche and Spencer
Cinematography Roberto Schaefer
Edited by Matt Chesse
Lee Daniels Entertainment
Distributed by Lions Gate Films
Release dates
  • November 11, 2001 (2001-11-11) (AFI Fest)
  • February 8, 2002 (2002-02-08)
Running time
111 minutes
112 minutes (Unrated)
Country United States
Language English
Budget $4 million
Box office $44,909,486

Monster's Ball is a 2001 American erotic romantic drama film directed by German-Swiss director Marc Forster starring Billy Bob Thornton, Halle Berry, and Heath Ledger. The film tells the story of a poor Southern woman who falls for a widowed prison-guard after the execution of her husband.

Berry won the Academy Award for Best Actress for her leading performance, and, as of 2015, is the only African-American woman to do so.


Hank Grotowski (Billy Bob Thornton), a widower, and his son, Sonny (Heath Ledger), are corrections officers in a local state prison. They reside in Georgia with Hank's ailing father, Buck (Peter Boyle), a racist whose wife committed suicide.

Hank as a deputy warden oversees the execution of convicted murderer Lawrence Musgrove (Sean Combs). As explained to Sonny by Hank, at the diner bar the night before, the movie title is what the execution team calls that night's get-together. The proceedings prove too intense for Sonny, who begins to vomit and then collapses as he is leading Lawrence to the electric chair. Hank confronts Sonny in the jail's bathroom afterwards and slaps him for being so "soft" and ruining a man's last walk. At home, Hank attacks Sonny in his bed and tells him to get out of the house. Sonny grabs a gun, and threatens his father, who backs off. The confrontation ends in their living room with Hank at gunpoint, lying on the carpet, and Sonny in Buck's customary chair. Sonny asks his father if he hates him. After his father calmly confirms that he does and always has, Sonny responds, "Well I always loved you," and then shoots himself in the heart. Hank subsequently buries Sonny in the back garden with no real funeral because, as Buck observes, "He was weak." Hank subsequently quits his job, burns his uniform in the backyard, and locks the door of Sonny's room.

During the years of Lawrence's imprisonment, his wife, Leticia (Halle Berry), has been struggling while raising their son, Tyrell (Coronji Calhoun), who has inherited his father's artistic talent. She goads the boy to the point of abuse over his obesity. Along with her domestic problems, Leticia struggles financially, leading to the loss of the family car and, worse, an eviction notice on her house. In desperate need of money, Leticia takes a job at a diner frequented by Hank. One rainy night, Leticia and Tyrell are walking down a soaked highway when Tyrell is struck by a car. Hank happens to be driving along and sees Leticia and Tyrell. After some hesitation, he picks Leticia and Tyrell up, and takes them to a hospital, but Tyrell dies upon arrival. At the suggestion of the authorities at the hospital, he drives her home. A few days later, Hank gives Leticia a ride home from the diner. They begin talking in the car about their common losses, and she invites him in. Hank finds out that Leticia is Lawrence's widow, though he does not tell her that he participated in her husband's execution. They drown their grief with alcohol and have sex.

Leticia stops by Hank's home with a present for him, but finds that he is out. She meets Buck, who insults her and implies that Hank is only involved with her because he wants to have sex with a black woman. Leticia, hurt by the remarks, refuses to interact with Hank. The incident proves to be the last straw for Hank and he decides to send his father to a nursing home. Leticia is evicted from her home for non-payment of rent and Hank invites her to move in with him. She later discovers Hank's involvement in her husband's death when she finds a drawing of Hank done by Lawrence as he awaited execution. She erupts, but is there waiting for him when he returns from town with ice cream. The film ends with the two of them eating ice cream together on the back porch, content with each other.



Louisiana State Penitentiary served as a filming location.

The film was produced by Lionsgate and Lee Daniels Entertainment.


The film received mostly positive reviews while Berry was critically lauded for her performance. Review website Rotten Tomatoes reported that 121 of the 142 reviews they tallied were positive. This resulted in a score of 85% and a certification of "Fresh".[1]

Roger Ebert gave the film four stars and stated that, "The movie has the complexity of great fiction"[2] listing it as the best film of 2001.

On Metacritic, the film received a 69 out of 100. This indicates "Generally Favorable Reviews"


  • Academy Awards
    • Best Actress in a Leading Role: Halle Berry (Winner)
    • Best Original Screenplay: Milo Addica & Will Rokos (Nominated)

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Monster's Ball Movie Reviews, Pictures". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved March 27, 2011.
  2. ^ "Monster's Ball :: :: Reviews". Chicago Sun-Times (February 1, 2002). Retrieved March 27, 2011

External links[edit]